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As an occasionally aspirant pundit, I follow the form of existing scribes quite closely. A friend who I consider an excellent newspaper columnist and I were recently discussing another, highly acclaimed columnist. “He’s brilliant and you have to read him,” my friend said, “but I’m surprised that he writes about such a narrow range of issues.”

According to my friend, a good columnist wakes up every day and thinks, “What’s the most important thing in the world that I could write about today?” A bit like some webloggers, perhaps?

Bill Safire is certainly an unmissable pundit (even if I disagree with 90% of what he says). Today he reveals some of his secrets: “Let me break all the rules of punditry and reveal the single source for this stunning report of musical chairs: It’s my thumb, on which I suck while I stare at the wall and dream up this stuff… Here is the trick in the political prognostication dodge: Take what you know to be true and then play fast and loose with the possible.”

That final injunction – “take what you know to be true and then play fast and loose with the possible” – strikes me as a useful touchstone for a wide range of thinking about the future.

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